Reports of a slowing economy and strong corporate profit growth sparked a wave of buying today on Wall Street, briefly pushing the three major market indexes into record territory. But in a highly volatile session, only the Nasdaq composite index closed at a record high.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.54 points, to close at 11,257.43. In earlier trading, the blue-chip indicator had risen as much as 138 points, easily surpassing its Aug. 25 closing record of 11,326.04.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 2.25, to 1421.03. The Nasdaq composite index rose 38.00, to 3753.06, topping Thursday's record close to reach its 25th new high since Oct. 29. The index, which lists a large number of technology companies, is now up more than 70 percent so far this year.
General Electric led the market higher today after announcing a 3-for-1 stock split. GE also said it will raise its dividend and expand its stock repurchase program. Analysts were upbeat on GE's growth prospects, saying the giant conglomerate is now building market share in every business line in every region of the world. GE rose 3 7/8, to 151 1/2.
"People are chasing the big stocks," said Brian G. Belski, chief investment strategist at George K. Baum & Co. in Kansas City, Mo. "There's lots of demand and not a lot of supply, so prices keep going up."
But after weeks of frothy gains for a handful of large companies, today's rally impressed analysts with its breadth and energy. On the New York Stock Exchange, more stocks rose than fell, a rare occurrence in recent weeks.
Volume on the NYSE hit an all-time high, with 1.35 billion shares changing hands in the regular session, up from 1.07 billion on Thursday. Today was a triple-witching session, a once-a-quarter event when contracts on stock options, index options and index futures all expire. Those expirations generally cause increased volatility on Wall Street.
Still, investors were enticed by signs of real strength in Corporate America. Nike rose 6 3/4, to 52-7/16 after posting fiscal second-quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations by 4 cents per share.
The market also got a lift from a Commerce Department report that construction of new homes and apartments fell by 2.3 percent in November as mortgage rates continued to climb.
According to analysts, the report suggested that three interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve this year may be successfully slowing the pace of the economy.
The Dow also got strong performances from industrial stalwarts such as Alcoa, up 1-11/16, to 77-15/16, and DuPont, up 3 1/4, to 68-9/16.
In after-hours trading, Adobe Systems rose after it reported earnings that beat analysts' expectations, Bloomberg News reported. The maker of design software climbed to 69 1/2, a gain of 5 3/4 from where it was when the regular trading session ended. The stock had risen 1 7/8 during the regular Nasdaq Stock Market session.